Turkish vessel to start gas exploration off Greek island of Crete

A Turkish exploration vessel will soon start looking for hydrocarbon reserves off the southeast of the Greek island of Crete in an area Greece has declared as part of its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Yeni Şafak newspaper reported.

Turkey is waiting the United Nations’ Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea to post the geographical coordinates of a maritime border agreement signed by the Turkish government and Libya’s United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in November, Yeni Şafak said.

The memorandum of understanding sees Turkey and Libya as maritime neighbours, claiming a Turkish EEZ that overlaps areas that Greece says are its own, around Crete, Rhodes and other islands. Turkey says these islands do not have a continental shelf and therefore an EEZ around them.

The Turkish ship, the Oruç Reis, will head to an area southeast of Crete after the Turkish Petroleum Corporation issues licences for the new areas in the eastern Mediterranean added to Turkey’s EEZ after agreement with Tripoli, Yeni Şafak said. 

Turkish authorities plan to start gas exploration and drilling actives in that area this year, it said.

Greece, one of a number of countries seeking to build a pipeline carrying gas to Europe across those waters, has denounced the deal between Turkey and Libya as illegal and a blatant violation of its sovereignty and has sent two letters to the United Nations explaining its objections.

Turkey already has two drilling ships off Cyprus, which continue their activities under the protection of the Turkish navy. 

The Oruç Reis has been exploring in the eastern Mediterranean since August last year.